Middle Eastern Studies

Students may complete a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies.

Faculty

Peter Magee, Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and Director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program
Grace Armstrong, Eunice M. Schenck 1907 Professor of French and Director of Middle Eastern Languages and Co-Director of the International Studies Program (fall)
Assef Ashraf, Predoctoral Fellow in History
Manar Darwish, Instructor of Arabic and Coordinator of the Bi-Co Arabic Program
Sofia Fenner, Lecturer in Political Science
Azade Seyhan, Fairbank Professor in the Humanities and Chair and Professor of German and Comparative Literature
Elly Truitt, Associate Professor of History (on leave semesters I & II)
Sharon Ullman, Professor of History and Director of Gender and Sexuality Studies (on leave semesters I and II)
Alicia Walker, Associate Professor of History of Art on the Marie Neuberger Fund for the Study of Arts and Director of the Center for Visual Culture (on leave semesters I & II)

Courses on the Middle East may contribute to majors in other fields or serve as electives. In addition, students may complete a concentration in Middle East Studies.

The Middle Eastern Studies Program focuses on the study of the area from Morocco to Afghanistan from antiquity to the present day. Bryn Mawr students can investigate the history, politics and cultures of the Middle East through coursework, independent study, study abroad, and events here and at neighboring institutions. In conjunction with courses at Haverford and Swarthmore, the Advisory Committee from Bryn Mawr College co-ordinates courses and works with colleagues from Haverford and Swarthmore College on tri-college curricular planning.

The members of the Middle Eastern Studies Committee can help students who are interested in Middle Eastern topics plan coursework and independent study.

There are two tracks to Middle East Studies Concentration; one requires study or competence in a Middle Eastern language, the other does not.

Track 1

The first track consists of six courses in the Humanities or Social Sciences that focus on the ancient or modern Middle East distributed in the following manner:

  • A basic course that offers a broad introduction to the region and its peoples. This may be a Social Science or Humanities course at the 100 or 200 level. Basic courses generally available include: POLS B283 Politics of the Middle East and North America (Bryn Mawr), ANTH H253 Anthropology of the Middle East (Haverford), and SOAN 009C Cultures of the Middle East (Swarthmore). A basic course should be chosen with the student’s advisor. The instructor in the basic course may recommend a basic text for the student to use as a reference for continuing study;
  • Three elective Middle Eastern topic courses, including at least one at the 300 level in a specific area to be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor. This area might be defined in terms of conceptual, historical, or geographical interests and, in many cases, will be connected to work in the student’s major;
  • Two additional Middle Eastern topic courses, at least one of which must be in either the Humanities or Social Sciences if a student’s work in (1) and (2) does not include one or the other of these;
  • Of the six courses one must be pre-modern in content;
  • Of the six courses only three may be in the student’s major.

Track 2

The second track consists of language study and other courses. Students opting for this track must take the equivalent of two years of study of a modern Middle Eastern language or pass a proficiency exam in one of these languages, whereby they may also meet the standard set for the A.B. degree for the foreign language requirement. Four additional courses distributed as follows are required for the concentration:

  • A basic course that offers a broad introduction to the region and its peoples. This may be a Social Science or Humanities course at the 100 or 200 level. Basic courses generally available include: POLS B283 Politics of the Middle East and North Africa (Bryn Mawr), ANTH H253 Anthropology of the Middle East (Haverford), and SOAN 009C Cultures of the Middle East (Swarthmore). A basic course should be chosen with the student’s advisor. The instructor in the basic course may recommend a basic text for the student to use as a reference for continuing study;
  • Three elective Middle Eastern topic courses, which meet the following conditions;
  • One course must be in the Social Sciences;
  • One course must be in the Humanities;
  • At least one course must be at the 300 level to be selected after consultation with the student’s adviser so as to expose the student to in-depth study of the Middle East with a geographic, conceptual, or particular historical focus;
  • At least one course must be pre-modern in content;
  • Of the four courses, only two may also form a part of the student’s major.

For Arabic and Hebrew languages, please see those sections.

COURSES

ARCH B104 Archaeology of Agricultural and Urban Revolutions

This course examines the archaeology of the two most fundamental changes that have occurred in human society in the last 12,000 years, agriculture and urbanism, and we explore these in Egypt and the Near East as far as India. We also explore those societies that did not experience these changes.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Geoarchaeology; Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Magee,P.
(Spring 2017)

ARCH B224 Women in the Ancient Near East

A survey of the social position of women in the ancient Near East, from sedentary villages to empires of the first millennium B.C.E. Topics include critiques of traditional concepts of gender in archaeology and theories of matriarchy. Case studies illustrate the historicity of gender concepts: women’s work in early village societies; the meanings of Neolithic female figurines; the representation of gender in the Gilgamesh epic; the institution of the “Tawananna” (queen) in the Hittite empire; the indirect power of women such as Semiramis in the Neo-Assyrian palaces. Reliefs, statues, texts and more indirect archaeological evidence are the basis for discussion.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Gender and Sexuality Studies; Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

ARCH B230 Archaeology and History of Ancient Egypt

A survey of the art and archaeology of ancient Egypt from the Pre-Dynastic through the Graeco-Roman periods, with special emphasis on Egypt’s Empire and its outside connections, especially the Aegean and Near Eastern worlds.
Approach: Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Major Writing Requirement: Writing Attentive
Counts towards: Africana Studies; Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

ARCH B240 Archaeology and History of Ancient Mesopotamia

A survey of the material culture of ancient Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, from the earliest phases of state formation (circa 3500 B.C.E.) through the Achaemenid Persian occupation of the Near East (circa 331 B.C.E.). Emphasis will be on art, artifacts, monuments, religion, kingship, and the cuneiform tradition. The survival of the cultural legacy of Mesopotamia into later ancient and Islamic traditions will also be addressed.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

ARCH B244 Great Empires of the Ancient Near East

A survey of the history, material culture, political and religious ideologies of, and interactions among, the five great empires of the ancient Near East of the second and first millennia B.C.E.: New Kingdom Egypt, the Hittite Empire in Anatolia, the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires in Mesopotamia, and the Persian Empire in Iran.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Helft,S.
(Fall 2016)

COML B225 Censorship: Historical Contexts, Local Practices and Global Resonance

The course is in English. It examines the ban on books and art in a global context through a study of the historical and sociopolitical conditions of censorship practices. The course raises such questions as how censorship is used to fortify political power, how it is practiced locally and globally, who censors, what are the categories of censorship, how censorship succeeds and fails, and how writers and artists write and create against and within censorship. The last question leads to an analysis of rhetorical strategies that writers and artists employ to translate the expression of repression, trauma, and torture into idioms of resistance. German majors/minors can get German Studies credit. Prerequisite: EMLY B001 or a 100-level intensive writing course.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC)
Counts towards: Latin American, Iberian and Latina/o Studies; Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Seyhan,A.
(Fall 2016)

HART B311 Topics in Medieval Art
This is a topics course. Course content varies. Current topic description: Topic TBA
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Spring 2017)

HIST B128 Crusade, Conversion and Conquest

A thematic focus course exploring the nature of Christian religious expansion and conflict in the medieval period. Based around primary sources with some background readings, topics include: early medieval Christianity and conversion; the Crusades and development of the doctrines of “just war” and “holy war”; the rise of military order such as the Templars and the Teutonic Kings; and later medieval attempts to convert and colonize Eastern Europe.
Approach: Critical Interpretation (CI); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B210 From Empire to Nation-State in the Middle East

The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to the history of the Middle East from the late 18th century until the present. Islam and the classical Ottoman period will be discussed to provide the requisite background for the modern period. From the late Ottoman period onward, we will consider the impact of a series of events - from the incorporation of the Empire into a global economic system, to the rise of ethnic and national politics, the Ottoman reform movement, colonial expansion, the dissolution of the Empire, the emergence of the modern system of states, the Cold War, and the collapse of Soviet power. We will conclude with a discussion of the Arab Spring. Emphasis will be placed on links, continuity, and transitions during this two-hundred year period.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B223 The Early Medieval World

The first of a two-course sequence introducing medieval European history. The chronological span of this course is from the early 4th century and the Christianization of the Roman Empire to the early 10th century and the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC); Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B232 Nationalism and Conflict in Palestine and Israel

During this course we will examine the interactions and changing relationships of the diverse ethnic and religious groups in Israel and Palestine, from the late 19th century until the present. We will examine the roots of ethnic identity and the influences of modernization and nationalism on the current Israel-Palestine conflict. Important historical transformations will be stressed, including: the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, the establishment of the State of Israel, the 1948 and 1967 wars, the first intifada, the Oslo Accords, and the second intifada. Throughout we will analyze the claims made by different groups of Israelis and Palestinians, and the competing narratives these inspire and are inspired by. We will conclude with a discussion of the current opportunities and challenges to the peace process.
Approach: Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B234 An Introduction to Middle Eastern History

Through the historical study of Islamism this course will dispel the notion that this movement is a natural outgrowth of Islam. It will show that Islamism grew as a native response to European nationalism and imperialism. After examining the intellectual sources of Islamism, this course will look to answer why Islamism has proved so resilient in the face of intense local and foreign opposition and proved well suited for an increasingly global world.
Approach: Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Ashraf,A.
(Fall 2016)

HIST B320 Middle Eastern Migration, Diaspora and Nostalgia

This course will trace Middle Eastern migration movements from the 19th century to the present. After a discussion of historical migration patterns, we will examine theories of migration focusing on why people move and how their movement effects and affects social and economic statuses and processes in both sending and receiving countries. Next we will consider theoretical and empirical studies on the integration of immigrants in host societies. Particular emphasis will be given to immigrants’ assimilation and/or integration, as well as issues relating to immigrants’ identity reformation and the creation of Diasporas. We will interrogate Diaspora as a theoretical concept and consider its relationship to absence and difference. Finally, we will consider how transnational communities perform identity and how this is connected to memory/forgetting and nostalgia.
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B342 Food and Identity in the Middle East

This course will provide an introduction to the study of the Middle East through an examination of culinary history and foodways. Particular attention will be paid to food as a marker of class, ethnic, and religious identity. A brief theoretical introduction to foodways literature will include Claude Fischler’s work on identity and Bourdieu’s work on taste and class. An examination of the cookery of the classical Islamic period, along with a discussion of the culinary exchange between the Middle East and the West will provide the historical and cultural background for the study of the modern era.
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

HIST B351 Intoxicated Identities: Alcohol Consumption in Modern Mideast

This class aims to show not only that people in the Middle East drink, that is irrefutable, but that the reasons why they did so provide an interesting prism through which to view the history of the region. It will show that the alcohol consumption habits of residents of the Middle East between the years 600 and the present can serve as an excellent entry point for the discussion of many important historiographical issues including constructions of masculinity and femininity, identity formation, youth culture, leisure, and class formation.
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
(Not Offered 2016-2017)

POLS B283 Introduction to the Politics of the Modern Middle East and North Africa

This course is a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the politics of the region, using works of history, political science, political economy, film, and fiction as well as primary sources. The course will concern itself with three broad areas: the legacy of colonialism and the importance of international forces; the role of Islam in politics; and the political and social effects of particular economic conditions, policies, and practices.
Approach: Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC)
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Fenner,S.
(Spring 2017)

POLS B360 Islam and Politics

This course will strive to answer but also to critique common questions about the role of Islam in political life: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Is Islam bad for women’s or minority rights? Does Islam cause violence? Will including Islamist organizations in democratic politics induce them to moderate their views? And what are the political consequences of asking and debating such questions? More broadly, this course will consider evolving approaches to culture, religion, and ideology in political science, exploring not just the effect of Islam on politics but also the ways in which politics have shaped the Islamic tradition over time. This course is open to all students who have the prerequisites. It also serves as a thesis prep course for political science senior majors. Prerequisite: POLS B131 or instructor consent.
Major Writing Requirement: Writing Attentive
Counts towards: Middle Eastern Studies
Units: 1.0
Instructor(s): Fenner,S.
(Fall 2016)